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TwinsCentric: Top 10 under-30 pro athletes from Minnesota

  • Blog Post by: Seth Stohs
  • September 20, 2011 - 1:29 AM
With the Twins (and their fans) suffering yet another loss, and the Vikings tough Week 2 loss, I thought something different would be good. So today, I ranked the Top 10 professional athletes who are from high schools in Minnesota. There are several others who could make this list in a couple of year, and several others such as Brad Hand or Eric Decker that will make it. But here are my rankings for the top ten. How would you rank them? Who is missing?
 
#10 – Blake Wheeler – The Breck School – 8/31/86  
After a junior season in which he led The Breck School to a state championship, he spent a season in the USHL before playing three years for the Gophers. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. He came to the NHL in 2008 with the Boston Bruins. He was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers in February. In three seasons in the NHL, he has accumulated 57 goals and 70 assists. The Thrashers moved to Winnipeg and became the Jets. He signed a two years, $5.1 million deal this past offseason.  
 
#9 – Tom Gilbert – Bloomington Jefferson – 1/10/83
Gilbert played three seasons at Jefferson before spending a season in the USHL. After being drafted by the Avalanche in the 5th round of the 2002 draft, he spent four seasons at Wisconsin. He spent most of the 2006-07 in the minor leagues before a late season call-up. He has played at least 79 games in each of the four seasons since. In that time, he has 30 goals and 11 assists. In 2008, he signed a six year, $24 million deal.
 
#8 – Glen Perkins – Stillwater – 3/2/83
Perkins graduated from Stillwater and pitched two seasons for the Gophers. In that time, he was 19-5 with a sub-3.00 ERA and the Big 10 Pitcher of the Year. The Twins used their second first-round pick (22nd overall) to select the southpaw. He quickly advanced through the Twins farm system and made his big league debut in September of 2006. He spent 2007 in the Twins bullpen. He went 12-4 in 26 starts for the Twins. He really struggled in 2009 starting for the Twins. He really struggled in 2010 pitching for the Rochester Red Wings. Somehow in 2011, he has been the Twins and one of the league’s most reliable, dominant left-handed relievers.
 
#7 – Kris Humphries – Hopkins – 2/6/85
At Hopkins, Humphries helped his team to the 2002 Minnesota State basketball championship. In 2003, he was a McDonald’s All-American and Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball. After committing to attend Duke, he changed his mind, stayed home and played one season for the Gophers. (Side Note - I haven’t watched Gophers hoops or college hoops since that year.) In his season with the Gophers, he averaged 21.7 points and 10.1 rebounds. To no one’s surprise, he left school and entered the NBA draft. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Utah. He spent two years with the Jazz, three years in Toronto, and part of a season in Dallas. He was traded to New Jersey during the 2009-10 season where he has finally been given an opportunity to play more than 13 minutes a game. He responded well. In 2010-11, he averaged 10.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, including making 44 starts. He sits out right now thanks to the NBA labor issues, but he will become a free agent at which point he should have a big pay day. Apparently, he got married recently too. Not sure if anyone heard about that.
 
#6 – Keith Ballard – Lake of the Woods (Baudette) – 11/26/82
Ballard played for Lake of the Woods high school in Baudette through his sophomore season. He then went to the USHL and spent a year with the US National Development team and a year in Omaha. Then in three years with the Gophers, he scored 33 goals and had 67 assists. He also was part of two national championship teams. In 2002, he was the 11th overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres. He was traded two times before he signed with the Phoenix Coyotes. Due to the NHL Lockout, he spent his first season in the minor leagues. He then spent four seasons with the Coyotes and two years with the Florida Panthers. Last year, he played for the Vancouver Canucks. He has scored 35 goals and assisted on another 121 goals. He has also played in many international competitions.
 
#5 – Zach Parise – Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Faribault) – 7/28/84
Parise is a rare top high school player who actually played four years at his high school. In 125 games during his final two seasons with Shattuck, he scored 146 goals and had another 194 assists. He spent two seasons at the University of North Dakota. The New Jersey Devils made him the 17th overall selection of the 2003 draft. He spent one year in the minor leagues before being promoted. He played in 81 or 82 games in each of his first five seasons before a torn meniscus limited him to just 13 games last year. He signed a one year, $6 million deal with the Devils for the 2011-12 season. In his six years, he has scored 163 goals and assisted on another 178. He has participated in many international competitions and really made a name for himself thanks to a great run in the 2010 Olympics.  
 
#4 – Marion Barber – Wayzata – 6/10/83
At Wayzata high school, Barber was a great all-around athlete. He was a sprinter in track, a centerfielder in baseball and a running back and defensive back in football. Football is in his blood. His dad played six seasons as a running back for the Jets in the 1980s. His brother Dominique is a safety with the Texans. As a senior in high school, Barber ran for nearly 1,800 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also had ten interceptions, three of them off of Joe Mauer. He spent three seasons with the Gophers during which he scored 35 touchdowns. He entered the NFL draft following a junior season in which he teamed with Lawrence Maroney. He was drafted in the 4th round by the Dallas Cowboys. In six years with the Cowboys, he ran for nearly 4,000 yards and 43 touchdowns. He also caught another 163 passes for another 1,231 yards and six touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler after a 2007 season in which he ran for 975 yards. He was released by the Cowboys and is now the #2 running back of the Chicago Bears.
 
#3 – Lindsay Whalen – Hutchinson – 5/9/82
Whalen was a four year starter at Hutchinson high school before leading the Gophers women’s basketball team to incredible popularity. Before she arrived, the Gophers had been to the NCAA tournament just one time. In her four years, they made it to the tournament three times, and no one in Minnesota will forget that Final Four run in 2004. Unfortunately, the WNBA didn’t allow regional signings and Whalen was selected with the 4th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Connecticut Sun. She led the Sun to the WNBA championship her first two seasons. She was traded to the Lynx and has played for them the past two years. Many believe that she should have been the 2011 WNBA MVP as she led the Lynx to the best record. In eight seasons, Whalen has averaged 12 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds. She has played professionally in Prague the last couple of seasons as well.
 
#2 – Larry Fitzgerald – Holy Angels Academy – 8/31/83
Fitzgerald spent the final three football seasons of his high school career at the Academy of Holy Angels after a freshman year at Minnehaha Academy. Fitzgerald was a ball boy on Denny Green’s Vikings teams, and learned a lot from Cris Carter and Randy Moss. After a remarkable two-year career at the University of Pittsburgh in which he was a runner-up in Heisman Trophy voting, Green (coaching the Arizona Cardinals) drafted him with the 3rd overall pick in the 2004 draft. In his seven seasons with the Cardinals coming into this season, he had 613 catches for 8,204 yards and 65 touchdowns. He has been a Pro Bowler five times, and recently, he signed an 8 year, $120 million contract to remain with the Cardinals.     
 
#1 – Joe Mauer – Cretin-Derham Hall - 4/19/83
At Cretin-Derham Hall, Mauer averaged over 20 points per game. He was all-state his final two years. He was the national player of the year in both football and in baseball. To say he was a pretty good athlete might be an understatement. Florida State and Bobby Bowden offered Mauer a full ride to Mauer to play football, but when the Twins used the #1 overall pick in the 2001 draft (and a signing bonus north of $5 million), baseball became Mauer’s career. Mauer was on the fast track and on Opening Day 2004, he was the Twins catcher. Mauer is the only catcher in major league history to win three batting titles. He has played in four All Star games, won four Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Glove awards and was the 2009 American League MVP (When he led the AL in Batting Average, On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage).  
 
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to discuss in the Comments section.
 
Don’t Forget – The TwinsCentric Viewing Party will be on Saturday at Manitou Station in White Bear Lake during Game 1 of the Twins/Cleveland double header Gt there around 11:30 and stay through the game.  

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